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TV Licence Fee: People over 75

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 6 January 2022

4. On what date she last held discussions with the BBC on the enforcement of TV licence fee payments for people aged over 75. (904865)

I meet the BBC regularly to discuss a range of issues, including enforcement, and I will meet the chair and director-general next week. The BBC confirmed recently that no enforcement action has been taken against anyone over 75 years of age at this stage. I am clear that the BBC must support those affected by the decision to end free TV licences for over-75s, and I expect it to do so with the utmost sensitivity.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that response, but do we trust the BBC? Would it not be much better to remove the power of the BBC to enforce sanctions through the criminal law against those who are over 75 and who are supporting a policy that the Government say they also support?

I reassure my hon. Friend that the entire issue of over-75s and decriminalisation remains very much under review and on my desk. The BBC has confirmed that no enforcement action has been taken. It recently began customer care visits to people aged over 75 who may need additional support in paying the TV licence. Those visits are to assist the over-75s to get appropriately licenced, with the fee paid. I expect the BBC to handle those visits with the utmost sensitivity. I reassure him that this issue is under review.

About six years ago, a previous Government entered into a two-way agreement with the BBC regarding the over-75s. The BBC’s part of the agreement was that it would continue to fund free licence fees for the over-75s. The Government’s part of the agreement was to agree to an increase in the licence fee and to some other aspects that advantaged the BBC. The BBC has broken its part of the agreement. What are the Government doing about our part?

As I said in my previous answer, this is something that I am continuing to review. I reiterate that the BBC has taken no action against anyone over 75 years of age—no one. This is something that I am watching very carefully. I cannot say much more at this stage, but I do have a close eye on it.